Twenty-five years of sci-fi mythology-making and merchandising has brought George Lucas to Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, the second of three prequels to his Star Wars trilogy. This particular part of the adventure is set 10 years after the events of the less-than-impressive Episode I: The Phantom Menace. For Attack Of The Clones, George Lucas has co-written the screenplay with Jonathan Hales (Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) and Lucas directs the film.
Like all the Star Wars outings, Attack Of The Clones is about the conflict between good and evil, technology and humanity, heroism and limitless potential. Lucas continues his dream of recreating classic Saturday movie matinees and pulp fantasy adventures; a sort of sci-fi spaghetti western. In many ways this is just what Attack Of The Clones is, a B-grade western such as some of you may remember from your childhoods. Even Samuel L. Jackson, who reprises his Jedi Mace Windu Phantom Menace role, says he feels like Errol Flynn. I suppose he means swashbuckling hero, in case you haven’t twigged!
There’s a new element in Attack Of The Clones though, a teen romance-cum love story between Anakin Skywalker, played by newcomer Canadian Hayden Christensen (The Virgin Suicides) and Padm?midala played by Natalie Portman (reprising her Phantom Menace role). Jedi aren’t supposed to fall in love, let alone have a relationship but hey, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia have to have parents and John Williams even wrote a special love theme! Way too much time is spent on meaningful looks and romantic dinners and way too little time is spent on building other characters such as Jango Fett, the bounty hunter model for the clone army, played by Temuera Morrison (Once Were Warriors) and his son Boba Fett, played by young Kiwi Daniel Logan.
Attack Of The Clones is an improvement on Phantom Menace, a film which disappointed many diehard Star Wars-philes. Fans will be happy to see a better balance of the usual elements, ie battles, sword fights, high speed chases and less talk. The dialogue on the whole is incredibly cheesy and wooden with plenty of the dark side clouds everything and vicious mindless monsters -“ there’s nothing here to really stretch the imagination. The acting is pretty ordinary too. Ewan McGregor is the most lively, and is more relaxed in this episode than in Phantom Menace, although he is desperately trying to imitate Sir Alec Guinness. Hayden Christensen is all startled rabbit. Natalie Portman is gorgeous and if she’d been allowed a sword instead of a gun she would’ve reconquered the galaxy! As for her outfits, they’re part retro and part Britney and they just seem to get skimpier by the end. At least we find out why Princess Leia wore her hair the way she did. Legendary 80-year-old Christopher Lee adds a weighty presence. There are accents from everywhere and I suppose Lucas probably felt this represented the galaxy of nations. I’m sure the Kiwi accents of Temuera Morrison, Jay Laga’aia and Daniel Logan represent alienspeak for most Americans!
There is quite an Australian connection in Attack Of The Clones. Australia, along with Tunisia, Lake Como in northern Italy and Seville in Spain all provided locations. Quite a few Australians appear in the film including Jack Thompson, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse and Susie Porter. Ben Snow, nominated for an Academy Award for Pearl Harbour, is the Visual Effects Supervisor and oversaw the biggest battle scene in the Star Wars series.
Although Attack Of The Clones is watchable, it’s just not up there with The Matrix, Lord Of The Rings or indeed The Empire Strikes Back. It is novel that George Lucas has given us an episode with a Freudian sub-theme, as well as a sort of digital-futuristic-ultra-noir look. The battle scenes and sword fights are entertaining and at least Yoda is a warrior and not just a special effect! It’s just a pity about the inadequate script and the cornball mythology. Still, only one prequel to go!